Wednesday, December 28th, 2016

Western Michigan Practice Notes From AT&T Stadium

Spend any time around Western Michigan Head Coach P.J. Fleck and
you’re likely to hear about serving and giving being fundamental parts of the program’s values.

A few of his players demonstrated those values by coming to the aid of an injured man this week, a story that was shared with the rest of the players after their walk-through on Wednesday at AT&T Stadium.

The 15th-ranked Broncos (13-0, 9-0 Mid-American) are preparing to meet No. 8 Wisconsin (10- 3, 7-2 Big Ten) on Jan. 2 in the 81st Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic.

Part of the day was spent on a scheduled service opportunity when the team visited patients at Children’s Medical Center of Dallas. An unscheduled chance to help someone happened earlier in the week at the team hotel. Linebackers coach David Duggan gave an account, as told to him, to the team after the walk-through.

Head Coach P.J. Fleck didn’t seek to publicize the Good Samaritan story but did talk about it when asked.

“A lady stopped our linebacker coach in the hotel and asked him if he was affiliated with Western Michigan,” Fleck said. “He said, ‘Yes, I’m the linebacker coach.’ And she started crying. Three or four of our players actually helped her dad who fell in the hotel, was seriously hurt and taken to the hospital. They were there and continued to come back and check on him while he was down.

“It just shows that this program is about serving and giving. It’s a very unique program. It’s very different. The main focus of what we do is for other people.”

Fleck didn’t name the players because he said he didn’t want to embarrass them.

Besides serving, the week has been balanced between work and fun. The work involves meetings and practice. It’s not like a normal game week because the lead-up time to the bowl is longer, but instead of scrapping the normal schedule Fleck has simply adjusted it.

Wednesday was run like a normal game-week Monday, which is usually the players’ off day. That’s why they only did a walk-through. They will go through a full practice on Thursday, like a game-week Tuesday.

“We’ll ramp it back up again,” Fleck said.

Thursday will be a busy day. The offense will be represented at a news conference by Offensive Coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca, RB Jamauri Bogan, WR Corey Davis, RB Jarvion Franklin, OL Taylor Moton and QB Zach Terrell. The team will practice in the afternoon, which is closed to the public. Besides various meetings, meals and an entertainment event, the players will have blocks of free time in the morning and evening.

Fleck said he embraces the work-fun balance and trusts his team to handle it the right way.

“We have a saying: ‘When we rest, we rest. When we play, we play,’” Fleck said. “And that’s the way we want to be able to do it. When we’re on the field, we work. But when we rest, let’s rest and have some fun. When you’re a student-athlete, you have to have that balance. It’s a very mature group.”

The Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic celebrates its 81st anniversary on Monday, January 2. Airtime on ESPN is set for noon CST, with kickoff slated for 12:01 p.m.

This marks the third consecutive year for the Goodyear Cotton Bowl to be a part of the ESPN bowl lineup. Bob Wischusen and Brock Huard will provide the call from the booth with Allison Williams reporting from the sideline.

ESPN Radio returns as the Classic's national radio partner for the fifth consecutive year. Brad Sham, the "Voice of the Dallas Cowboys," teams with Rod Gilmore in the booth and Quint Kessenich on the sideline to describe all the action from AT&T Stadium. This is Sham's 20th consecutive year as the Classic's play-by-play voice and his 24th overall.

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